HOLTVILLE, Calif. — Not less than 13 folks died after an SUV full of dozens of passengers collided with a semitruck close to the U.S.-Mexico border Tuesday, in line with California Freeway Patrol officers.
California Freeway Patrol Division Chief Omar Watson mentioned the crash concerned an enormous rig hauling two trailers and a Ford Expedition carrying 25 folks. The large rig smashed into the facet of the SUV earlier than 6:15 a.m. PST on the intersection of State Route 115 and Norrish Street close to Holtville, about 50 miles west of Arizona and 10 miles north of the border.
Authorities, late Tuesday, mentioned they’re investigating whether or not human smuggling was concerned.
It wasn’t instantly clear whether or not the SUV was carrying migrants who had crossed the border, ferrying farmworkers to fields, or was getting used for another objective.
“Particular brokers from Homeland Safety Investigations San Diego responded … and have initiated a human smuggling investigation,” the company mentioned in a press release, including that different particulars weren’t being launched.
A preliminary report on the crash launched late Tuesday the freeway patrol mentioned the SUV, pushed a 28-year-old resident of Mexico, “entered the intersection instantly in entrance” of a Peterbilt truck pushed Joe Beltran, 68, of El Centro, Calif.
The truck struck the left facet of the SUV, instantly killing its driver, who was not named police. The report says it’s unclear why the driving force of the SUV pulled into the intersection into the trail of the truck.
Beltran was taken to an space hospital with “main accidents,” the report mentioned.
“It could be untimely for me to take a position or talk about what brought on this collision. What we’ve got to remember is that 13 folks died on this crash,” Watson mentioned. “It’s a really unhappy scenario.”
Twelve folks died on the scene, together with the SUV driver, and one died on the hospital, Watson mentioned. There have been kids within the SUV, however none of them died, he mentioned. The ages of these concerned within the crash vary from 15 to 53.
Ten of the victims have been Mexicans, confirmed Roberto Velasco, director of North American affairs for Mexico’s International Relations Division.
The older-model Ford Expedition SUV ought to match solely six folks — that means nearly 20 extra passengers have been unsafely driving inside on the time of the crash, he mentioned.
“Clearly, that car is just not meant for that many individuals. It’s unlucky that that variety of folks have been put into that car,” Watson mentioned.
The motive force of the SUV was from Mexicali, a metropolis in northern Mexico that hugs the U.S. border close to the El Centro area in California, in line with CHP Officer Jake Sanchez.
Seven sufferers have been taken to El Centro Regional Medical Middle, the place one individual died, emergency room managing director Judy Cruz mentioned in a Fb Dwell video Tuesday. The hospital known as for air assist to move a number of sufferers to different amenities, she mentioned.
A couple of sufferers have been taken to Pioneers Memorial Hospital in Brawley, California, Cruz mentioned. A number of others have been airlifted to the trauma middle at Desert Regional Medical Middle in Palm Springs, Calif., hospital spokesperson Todd Burke mentioned. Three have been in intensive care.
By late afternoon native time, one affected person had been launched from one of many hospitals, Watson mentioned.
“The sufferers are, after all, going means of a bit of little bit of a troublesome time as you’ll be able to think about,” mentioned Dr. Adolphe Edward, chief government officer at El Centro Regional Medical Middle. “It is a main accident. We’re taking good care of them within the emergency room division.”
The California Freeway Patrol labored with the Mexican consulateto “decide who precisely was within the car,” Watson mentioned. He mentioned what’s “essential to me is to verify the households are notified and that we do an intensive investigation in order that we all know what the reason for the collision was.”
He mentioned investigators have been nonetheless piecing collectively why greater than two dozen folks have been crammed into the car, the place they have been coming from and the place they have been going. Whereas legislation enforcement was nonetheless investigating what led to the crash, climate didn’t play an element, Watson mentioned.
Watson added they did discover identification for a few of the passengers within the car however would not say whether or not all have been U.S. residents.
Watson mentioned seats have been lacking from the SUV and the one ones nonetheless within the car on the time of the crash have been the drivers seat and the entrance passenger seat.
“I don’t know in the event that they have been lower out or eliminated, however they weren’t within the car,” Watson mentioned of rear seats within the SUV.
A number of passengers have been ejected from SUV within the crash whereas a number of who have been injured have been capable of pull themselves from the wreckage, Watson mentioned. Others have been nonetheless trapped when legislation enforcement arrived and have been freed with their assist.
“It was a fairly chaotic scene,” Watson mentioned, later including that, “everybody within the car was injured to some extent.”
The freeway is a well-traveled street, and it was anticipated to be closed all day, Watson mentioned.The wreckage was at an intersection inside a largely undeveloped space of farmland, and residents from close communities ventured to the positioning Tuesday afternoon.
California Sen. Dianne Feinstein mentioned she was “heartbroken” after studying concerning the lethal crash Tuesday afternoon.
“My ideas are with the households of all these concerned,” Feinstein introduced on Twitter. “My workplace is carefully monitoring the scenario as we be taught extra about this horrific crash. My because of the Imperial County Fireplace Division and different first responders for his or her swift response and the assorted medical facilities within the space that handled injured passengers.”
Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Calif., additionally expressed his condolences on Twitter.
“My workplace is carefully monitoring the heartbreaking crash in Imperial County, CA that has claimed 15 lives and injured a number of extra,” Padilla mentioned, including: “Our prayers are with their households and with these nonetheless within the hospital.”
Macario Mora, a spokesman for Customs and Border Safety in Yuma and El Centro, mentioned the Border Patrol was serving to different legislation enforcement with the crash. He mentioned the immigration standing of these within the SUV was unknown and being investigated.
Authorities are working with the Mexican consulate to establish the victims.
“It was an uncommon variety of folks in an SUV, however we don’t know who they have been,” Mora mentioned, including that they might have been farmworkers.
A harvest is underway within the area, the place farmworkers will gather many of the winter lettuce and different leafy greens eaten in the US.
Mora informed USA TODAY that CBP was on the scene to assist officers investigating the accident and the company wasn’t concerned in what led to the crash. “This was not a Border Patrol pursuit,” Watson mentioned.
As authorities have been investigating the crash, Hugo Castro, 49, positioned not less than 20 crosses on the scene for the victims.
He mentioned he didn’t know any of them, nor was he acquainted with earlier collisions on the intersection. He positioned the crosses, he mentioned, to lift consciousness for immigration rights and reform.
“I do know they’re human beings who deserve a greater alternative,” Castro mentioned. “Human beings shouldn’t die for making an attempt to be with their family members.”
Archival imagery from Google Maps exhibits not less than one cross on the similar intersection. Not less than two different deadly accidents have occurred on the similar location, in line with the College of California-Berkeley’s Transportation Harm Mapping System.
Contributing: Emily LeCoz and Janet Loehrke, USA TODAY; Related Press
Colin Atagi reported from Holtville for the Palm Desert Solar. Grace Hauck reported from Chicago for USA TODAY. Christal Hayes reported from Washington, D.C. for USA TODAY.